Posted by: Randall Niles | April 30, 2011

Easter Evidence – Will People Die for a Lie?

At AllAboutGOD.com and GotQuestions.org, we get more emails of spiritual interest during the Easter season than any other time of year. The inquiries run the gamut — from ancient Ishtar to Roman conspiracies, Jewish Passover to Easter egg hunts.

In the end, most questions end up pointing to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most specifically, how can I trust that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead about 2,000 years ago?

As part of any spiritual journey, it’s important to examine the persecution and death that was such a dramatic piece of early Christian history. Any skeptic who holds to a notion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a man-made legend created after-the-fact by a group of religious zealots, should sincerely check out the legacy of martyrdom.

Eleven of the 12 apostles, and many of the other early disciples, died for their adherence to the Jesus story. This is powerful because they were eyewitnesses to the alleged events surrounding Jesus and his resurrection, and went to their deaths to defend their truth. Why is this so spectacular when many throughout history have died martyred deaths for religious beliefs?

Because, people don’t die for a lie.

Look at human nature throughout history. No conspiracy can be maintained when life or liberty is at stake. Dying for a heart-felt belief is one thing, but numerous eyewitnesses dying for a known lie would be quite another.

Does this make sense?

Can you think of any widespread example of an entire group of people knowingly suffering and ultimately dying brutal deaths in order to defend something they knew to be false? The Islamic jihadists of September 11th may have sincerely believed in what they died for (paradise, virgins, etc.), but they certainly weren’t in a position to know whether or not what they believed was true. They put their radical faith in religious teachings of religious authorities. In contrast, the New Testament’s martyrs either saw what they claimed to see or they didn’t. Either they interacted with the resurrected Jesus or they made the whole story up. Dramatically, these witnesses clung to their testimonies even to their brutal deaths, knowing full well whether their beliefs were true or false.

Just something to Think About this weekend after Easter,

Randall Niles

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Responses

  1. I always wonder, if people cannot die for something they know to be false, then what about the founders/initiators of the lie?
    for example didnt Joseph smith die while claiming his belief? and what about mohammed? did they die for what they knew to be false?

    • Great question… It seems many throughout history have “died for a lie” after hearing voices, having a dream, delving into drugs, experiencing a mystical epiphany, etc. Both of the religious leaders you mention had personal experiences with “an angel” and wrote “holy material” as a result. An individual may or may not die for a lie, promote a “mystic experience” as truth, etc. He/she might really believe it OR he/she might be a fraud. Either way, it’s one person, and the personal, mystical experience is very hard to challenge.

      However, the power of the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was that multiple eyewitnesses experienced the same thing. The strength of this argument as applied to the Biblical account of Jesus Christ is that multiple witnesses experienced it, wrote about it, and died for it. You can always find an individual who will die for a known lie, but an entire group of people with multiple experiences with the risen Christ… that’s much different (and more compelling)… To me, at least 🙂

  2. Thanks for the prompt reply. I was reading some material on the evidence for/against the resurrection and found a rebutal on the internet that was quite impressive: the first point the writer made was that we dont know for sure what happened to the disciples. The stories of their deaths are not found in biographies but in church tradition which first mentioned them around the 3rd century. The second issue is that nobody thought of writing and investigating the lives of the 12 to know what happened to them except a partial bio of paul(acts) and also the early church fathers seem to have no intimate knowledge of the 12 disciples. Is it really honest to presume that they died for their beliefs?
    Another issue raised was that religious people are not generally inquisitive and quickly believe anything taught to them, was it possible that this was the case with Jesus disciples? could he have convinced them to lie? ( i say this in comparison to other religious sects that go to a great extent in covering up lies esp when a scandal breaks out). I have also seen the effects of naive blind faith,coming from a religious community. Are these reasonable objections?


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